It may have been just a mini league, but the excitement was all palpable as netball players and supporters alike thronged the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) Courts this past weekend. After more than three years of inactivity, the excitement was not misplaced.
This was a moment to savour for players and supporters. For the BONA officials, it was a moment of redemption. After more than four years of intense scrutiny, this was a moment of triumph. A chance to say once again that netball is back.
“I can confidently say that netball is finally back,” BONA spokesperson Mokeresete Mokeresete said in an interview. “We have managed to restart and return to play after a very long time,” he declared.
Having been among the crowds at the BONA courts on Saturday, the BONA PRO said the excitement from the supporters and the hunger on display from the teams and individual players was encouraging.
“The last time we had any competitive league was in 2018. It has been over three years since then. But from what we saw, we can confidently say we have hungry teams out there,” he gushed.
Given the long period of time when the league was inactive and the current Covid-19 induced new normal, the excitement is however tinged with a little trepidation. The threat of Covid-19 and the protocols set in place means BONA could not go all out with a fully-fledged league.
“We opted for the mini league which would only last seven weeks to test our preparedness of playing under this new normal. We also wanted to ease our players and teams into the rhythm of playing after such a long time of inactivity,” he explained.
In view of this, he said the BONA executive agreed that each team should play only one game per week. He said this is a deliberate move to ensure players do not get fatigue which may lead to unnecessary injuries, more especially as they have not played competitively in a long time.
Mokeresete said once the mini league is wrapped up, which they expect will be in March, BONA will prepare for a fully-fledged league. Bar another Covid-19 induced break, the league will be played from May until November.
“Everything is ready for us to start our league. We have already found sponsors for it as we have done for all the other activities we plan for this year. Very soon, we will reveal our league sponsor,” the BONA PRO said.
Mokeresete said aside from the league, BONA will also host an independence cup in September. The cup will see netball teams across the country converge for what will be akin to a netball festival.
“Our intention is to redeem our pride and standing in the continent. We have may international tournaments coming and we want to be ready for them. We have the Africa World Cup qualifiers in August in South Africa, COSANA tournament as well as the Africa Men’s netball championships. We believe our players are good enough to competitively take part in these and we want to give them a chance,” he concluded.